March 27, 2006

"Marriage Is for White People"

That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."

And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

So reports (sadly) Joy Jones in yesterday's Washington Post. It's an eye-opening article, to be sure, with some further interesting quotes and statistics. For example:

African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men, Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.


A black male acquaintance had a different prediction. "I don't believe marriage is going to be extinct, but I think you'll see fewer people married," he said. "It's a bad thing. I believe it takes the traditional family -- a man and a woman -- to raise kids."

"Amen" to that last sentence, but to be more specific, I'd say it takes a traditional family -- a man and a woman -- to have a much greater chance of successfully raising kids. Teaching for fifteen years has demonstrated to me which students have been the most successful, and they are without a doubt mostly from homes where both parents are present (i.e., married).

More via a cursory Google examination:

  • From a child's point of view, according to a growing body of social research, the most supportive household is one with two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. (Link.)
  • Family structure is correlated with other risk factors related to children's IQ--specifically income, cognitive stimulation and emotional support. A family headed by a never-married black mother will have, on average, an income of $18,000, and children in such a family will score, on average, 95 with regard to cognitive stimulation and 91 with regard to emotional support. In contrast, black families with two parents earn on average $31,000 and children in such families have average scores of 100 in terms of both the cognitive stimulation and emotional support that they receive. (Link.)
  • Compared with biological parents in intact families, guardians in families that did not have both biological parents talked less to students, had lower expectations, were less involved in school-related activities, knew fewer other parents, and reported a lower level of student participation in cultural activities. (Link.)

Lastly, here's a debate site that asks "Is the Two Parent Family Best"? Needless to say, I think the "pro" argument is demonstrably stronger.

Posted by Hube at March 27, 2006 05:51 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I read this article earlier today and I almost lost my lunch. Great analysis, Hube.

Posted by: Mike M. at March 27, 2006 07:27 PM

Thanks, Mike, but I really didn't do much of an analysis, really. :-)

Overall, I think it's just a sad story, as I mentioned. Teaching for many years shows one what "works best," but I want to make clear that even though taken as a whole I believe two-parent families are the most successful (raising successful kids), there certainly are many instances of single-parent households (and "other" types of homes, like with gay adoptive parents) that also do a great job.

Posted by: Hube at March 27, 2006 07:33 PM

No argument from me, other to say that the research (and my experience) supports the legalization of gay marriage.

The key is two loving active parents, the gender of those parents is not relevant.

Posted by: jason at March 28, 2006 07:39 AM

Yep, add me to the "me too" list. I even agree with Jason.

Posted by: Bronwen at March 28, 2006 02:25 PM

This is where I can throw "liberal" criticism at the failed policies of the DC DEM '60's which turned the ghetto-family out on its ear.

Lack of employment opportunities in the inner cities and the resulting slum-inducing poverty led the "welfare queen" syndrome: NO FATHERS ALLOWED.

No welfare check/per baby were doled to the poor if the residents included a man in the if that would magically make jobs and working fathers and create stable families.

A long road to go back to whole families in a culture shocked by decades of horrid social policy. These folks bought into it but who really can blame them?

Current state of affairs in the country are turning this reckless trend of outsourcing to joblessness in every class: the new DC GOPer policy failure. And they are determined to remove the safety net altogether!

Posted by: Nancy Willing at March 28, 2006 03:15 PM

We thank you for your comments, Nancy, even though you stated at that rad blog site, we're "right wing nuts."

Posted by: Hube at March 28, 2006 04:55 PM

...even though you stated at that rad blog site, we're "right wing nuts."

What no link? I have a feeling I would like that blog.

Posted by: jason at March 28, 2006 05:05 PM

Are we ready to say that responsibility is for white people? When black kids are made fun of by their peers for doing well in school, it's clear that education is for white people. I'm not ready to write off African-Americans as a permanent underclass, but it doesn't seem like they're trying too hard.

Posted by: G Rex at March 29, 2006 10:44 AM

Oh poo G. Rex. Shame on you.

Hube, call 'em as you see 'em!!!
I like nuts left or right, just don't get violent, lie, cheat and steal my electoral process.

Posted by: Nancy Willing at March 29, 2006 08:47 PM

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